When planning a trip of a lifetime, start with a reliable truck

Dear Car Talk,

I have a lifelong dream of driving to the Arctic Ocean. This will involve around 10,000 miles across the U.S. and Canada. I will go in the summer, and the riskiest section will be the gravel roads in northern Alaska.

What are your suggestions for a vehicle and gear? Should I bring spare parts? Exterior fuel canisters? Moose repellent? I’m considering a 4WD, manual, long-bed Toyota Tacoma with a camper shell for storage and sleeping (if necessary).

I’d really appreciate your advice for an adventure my wife says is exciting … but crazy. Thank you Ray!

— Steve

Yeah, your wife is so excited that she just increased her life insurance policy on you, Steve.

I’d bring all of the above. A few spare parts, some versatile tools and duct tape. Definitely bring exterior fuel canisters, moose repellant, and, most importantly, a satellite phone. You might want to bring a dentist, too. You never know when you might need a filling.

I think the Tacoma is a good choice, although if you’re buying one, the newer the better, and I’d get an automatic. Not only will you get better gas mileage, but you’ll never need to stop for a clutch job at Arctic Ocean Toyota.

The Tacoma has a great reputation for durability and reliability. And they’re common enough that you’ll find someone to work on it when necessary. They also hold their value well, so if you run out of room for new butt calluses somewhere in the Yukon, you can easily sell it and buy a plane ticket home.

In terms of spare parts, it’s really hard to know what to bring. If the truck is relatively new, you shouldn’t need much of anything. But on rough roads, certain parts are vulnerable, even in a new truck. For instance, you might want more than one spare tire, so when you blow one out on the gravel road and then blow a second one, you won’t end up passing through the digestive system of a polar bear waiting for AAA, eh?

You probably want an accessory belt, because if you drive over a tree branch you could tear one off. But you can’t plan for everything. And even if you tear open a CV boot on a boulder, you’re not going to replace that yourself at the side of the Alcan Highway. You’re going to need a shop anyway.

Obviously, unless the truck is new (which is not a bad idea), you’ll want to get it serviced and carefully inspected. Replace anything that appears questionable. And then, don’t forget your Speedo, for when you get to the Arctic. Bon voyage, Steve.